I took Henry (our dog) for a walk this evening and came back with a bag full of mystery novels from our down-the-street neighbor, Gail. I’d seen Gail out on her front stoop a few times while I was driving home, but it’s difficult to meet someone from inside your car. She lost her dog recently (a Boxer) and was so excited to see Henry. She told me she sits outside often, always reading book after book, which is what lead her to rush back into her building to grab me a few she was finished with. She told me to pass them along when I was done; “Or!” she proclaimed, “You could take them to the library. They keep a room of used books for sale.” During the course of our conversation, I also met two of her neighbors. She left me—this woman I had just met—with a hug.
Truthfully, parts of our downtown neighborhood here in York are not places many would feel comfortable walking alone at night. That said, I’ve been amazed at the love I’ve felt and connections I’ve been able to make just by being there, keeping my head up, and smiling. This strategy has never failed me, from York to DC to Durban. After six years in Washington, I know that finding a close, tangible community can be a rare thing in the age of workaholics, social media and smartphones, and I cherish it wherever I can find it.
Last night, during the debate, a friend posted: “When we act in love, we act in prudence, patience, and kindness; we make mistakes and offer grace; we persevere, doing better after failures. The President has a very important role, but our roles as members of a community are VITAL.” Never have I believed this more.
Walk your neighborhood and never be afraid to look a stranger in the eye and smile. Even if you’re a textbook introvert like me – it really works!
P.S. I love this list of 101 small ways you can improve your city over at Curbed, especially the t-shirts in #17. How creative!